Thursday, February 3, 2011

Why we don't evangelize anymore

In my daily Bible reading, which I'm a bit behind in, I was reading Matthew 20:1-16 today. It's the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. (Reftagger should bring up the text for you, but I'll paste it at the end for anyone that needs it.) Essentially, the parable relates that a master hired people to work in his vineyard at different times throughout the day and at the end of the day paid them all the same.

As it starts with a "The kingdom of heaven is like…" statement, we've long interpreted this as a description of heaven and the idea that it doesn't matter when in life (or, essentially, how close to death) one comes to Christ for salvation, all those who accept God's grace get the same benefit.

When you read the parable, though, there's a little more in it. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks of bitterness from the early-day workers that they aren't getting more perks than the late-day folks. The picture is that they're angry that a whole life of service isn't being treated better than a short time span.

This brought to mind a question for today: Is this why we as American Christians don't evangelize very much? Really, if you think about it, Evangelical Christianity in America often spends more time trying to convince people to act Christian rather than be Christian. The short term for that is "Culture Wars" but that's another day.

Moving on, a trend that I've noticed is a move of "raising the bar" for entrance to the Kingdom of God. For example, we profess that the Gospel is the simple message that Christ died in our place, and rose from the dead. If we will surrender our lives to Him, He will save us from the death we deserve and we'll go to the presence of God in death instead of to Hell.

Yet then we start to expand it: if you don't accept this theological proposition or that one, you didn't really accept the Gospel. I see it from my Calvinist and non-Calvinist brethren over whether an irresistible grace and unconditional election was necessary or not necessary. I see it between old-earth and young-earth folks over 6-days. I see it between inerrantists and not-inerrantists, that if you don't accept the whole Bible, you can't be saved.

And I think we do this to raise the bar, because we don't want people coming to the Kingdom after us but getting the same reward. It doesn't seem fair, really, does it? So we make it harder. Sure, for kids and teens we'll simplify it down (for them, we make the Kingdom so simple that when they hit real discipleship, they crumble, but that's another post, too) to the core, but for adults?

Adults had better come thoroughly prepared theologically. And so, we don't evangelize because we aren't prepared ourselves for the questions involved and because, really, we don't want people that haven't worked all day to get the same reward as us.

We Christians need to get over ourselves and our pursuit of our own glory. We need to learn to accept that God is not willing that any should perish---and that includes those who will spend more of their earthly time out of the kingdom than in it.

So let's get to work. Not on raising the bar beyond its Biblical level nor lowering it beneath that, but right where it belongs as we strive to make disciples.




““For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. “When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ “When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. “When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. “When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ “But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? ‘Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ “So the last shall be first, and the first last.” ” (Matthew 20:1–16, NAS)


  1. Doug,

    I'm going to be thinking about this for awhile. Your main point (about bitterness and raising the bar) and your aside about trying to get people to act Christian vs. be Christian.

    How are you coming on Philippians?


  2. Lagging a little on Philippians. It's been tough since we're trying to do as a family, and Ann and I have both been alternating being sick, so we're slowing down the process. 7 year old daughter seems like she's halfway to Colossians at this point.

    I wasn't sure if the post even made sense. I was reading that today and this was just what came out. There's a lot of ministry emphasis on youth and children, but what about trying to really reach the world? We don't really try, it seems, and I was just wondering if this is why. If this is why we want people to act Christian first, and then we'll let them have the Gospel.

    Anyway, hope all is well out West. Are you doing Philippians as well? We found out, after committing to Philippians, that there's a group of folks doing Colossians. All year, not by Easter. I would rather have done that!

  3. I AM working on Philippians, but I have an advantage... the boys and I memorized chapter 1 last year, so it just needs review. Also, I memorized most of chapter 2 about 10 years ago. I really let that go (no review) but there is some familiarity in the back of my brain.

    Not pushing too hard for Easter - not following "the schedule" - but keeping at it.

    Sorry you two have been sick - no fun! So far we've dodged the bullet, but several families in the neighborhood (with kids the boys play with) have been ill... I try to make them all play outside in the fresh air, but that's tough when it's in the 30's and 40's and raining.

    But back to your post... maybe I'm off on a tangent, but what it got me thinking about is how we want people to change everything (life, values, behavior) simultaneously with becoming a Christian. Or even before. As if we don't really believe that if they do get saved, that God will be working in their hearts.

    So we get busy trying to change them. Sure they need to be taught and discipled, but that's now what I mean. You know? We try to change the externals before their heart is renewed.

    Long comment, late at night. Hope it makes sense!


  4. That's a good point. I see a lot of the "Gospel as behavior modification" down here in the South: we need these kids to get saved so they'll: take out the nosering, stop listening to that music, stop this or start that. Same with adults.

    And in time, probably, much of that will happen. But it won't be instant.

    It's like needing to realize that not everyone that gets saved is immediately willing (or even knows how!) to help out with stuff at church or support financially. They are new believers and need to mature and see what to do.

    We Baptists are almost instant: just add water!


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